Have you heard? Teachers in West Virginia are entering their 9th day of a statewide strike! The strike is impressive in its own right-- and the parallels between the West Virginia teachers and our movement for $15 in the Twin Cities aren’t coincidental. What makes these movements “something more radical, disruptive and, ultimately, effective”?
“You’ve woken a sleeping giant and the giant is mad.”
That’s how the president of a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers described the energy behind the strike. After decades of attacks on their rights and dignity, workers are exploding into action. When the striking teachers demand a pay increase and fully funded health care, they’re demanding more than that-- they’re demanding an end to a system that puts corporate profits over quality jobs and education.
“We’re staying out 'til we see pen to paper.”
When West Virginia Governor Jim Justice told union leadership that the state would put together a task force to look into the question of health insurance funding, teachers didn’t assume the problem was solved-- they intensified their strike with an occupation of the Capitol to demand a guarantee of full funding. That’s the same approach workers in Minneapolis took when City Hall when the political establishment diverted the demand for $15/hour into an advisory committee. Across the country, workers are developing a healthy cynicism about the political establishment in both parties. It takes mass mobilization to interrupt business as usual, whether in the DFL dominated Minneapolis City Council or the Republican controlled West Virginia Statehouse. Instead of relying on the establishment, we’re fighting for ourselves with independent political movements!
"It’s illegal. We’re doing it anyway."
Along the way, the political establishment of both parties told us that passing a municipal $15 minimum wage was illegal. State legislators in West Virginia are telling teachers the same. It doesn’t matter. Workers movements are winning through mass mobilization, defying and rewriting the rules through collective action.